Virgin signs up as ninth team for Formula E

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Virgin Racing has signed up with the new FIA Formula E Championship as the series’ ninth team. Alex Tai will operate the squad as team principal and the effort has the full support and backing of Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson.

Virgin has spent some of its large sum in motorsports before, as a partner in the Brawn GP team that won the 2009 Formula One World Championship with Jenson Button, and later as the principal backer for the team now known as Marussia.

But as Virgin has withdrawn from F1, its business goals match what FE is trying to achieve instead. Both Tai and Branson have worked to pioneer technology projects in aviation, space and more recently racing.

“The launch of the FIA Formula E Championship is exciting news for racing fans but also for those that believe in developing the great electric cars of the future,” Branson said in a release. “The need to create fast, dependable and durable race cars will help to accelerate the sector and showcase electric cars to a large global audience. With races around many famous city centers, I am expecting a lot of spectators, plenty of fun and some sparks flying as the competition hots up.”

Tai added that this is part of Virgin’s overarching strategy.

“The drive to develop new technology appeals to Virgin, which has always been a pioneering organization,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to have been involved in a number of such activities over years, from the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer to Virgin Galactic activities that push technological and human boundaries and capture people’s imagination.”

The rest of the grid includes IndyCar teams Andretti Autosport and Dragon Racing, Asian efforts China Racing, Super Aguri and Mahindra Racing, and European squads Drayson Racing, e.dams and Audi Sport Abt.